Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The X Files: Bad Blood – review – TV Episode

Directed by: Cliff Bole

First aired: 22.2.98

Contains spoilers

There seems little point in explaining what the X Files were, to be honest you’d have had to have been living under a rock to have missed the TV phenomena. However, just in case, these were a long running TV series about (primarily) FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) as they investigated the weird and wonderful cases held in the basement of the FBI – marked X as they were deemed strange and unexplainable. Primarily about UFOs and Government conspiracy, the alien episodes actually became, for me, quickly wearing. However they did investigate a whole range of Fortean and supernatural events.

This episode was from season 5, which had some weird and wonderful episodes. This episode itself was pretty much a comedy episode. The main focus of the comedy came via the medium of telling the story twice, once from Scully’s perspective and then again from Mulder’s and seeing the same story with distinct differences. This type of comedy does work well, but works best when you are already invested in the characters.

The episode began with someone, we later discover to be Ronnie Stickland (Patrick Renna), running through the woods for his life. He is caught and then staked – by Mulder. Scully gets there and Mulder points out his fangs, which Scully taps and removes, they being false. Mulder gets as far as saying “Oh sh…” when the title music begins.

Back at FBI headquarters, with the threat of a $446 million lawsuit hanging over them and a need to give a report to their Director, Skinner (Mitch Pileggi), the two agents discuss what happened and, as I mentioned, their versions are somewhat askew in tone if not content. I don’t intend to go through both but give an overview.

Mulder has heard of some exsanguinations of cows in Chaney, Texas, that has escalated to the murder of a tourist. For Mulder the key elements are there, exsanguinations and fang marks. At Chaney they meet Sheriff Hartwell (Luke Wilson) – who seems debonair in Scully’s retelling and a buck-toothed hick in Mulder’s.

Leaving Scully to do an autopsy – in which she discovers that the victim was drugged with chloral-hydrate – Mulder goes off to check a creepy cemetery. Later, after a run in with a runaway RV in which a second victim is found, Mulder returns to the motel, sends Scully to do an autopsy on the new victim and settles down to eat her take-away pizza.

Scully finds that victim number two, like number one, had just eaten pizza and realises that the pizza is drugged. She returns to the motel to find Ronnie above the insensible Mulder. She shoots at Ronnie (from her perspective missing, from Mulder’s hitting but to no avail), Ronnie runs and she gives chase, followed shortly by the recovered but still drugged Mulder and we get back to the staking.

They are about to report to Skinner when we discover that, during his autopsy, Ronnie’s body has vanished. We have seen the coroner remove the stake, Ronnie sit up and attack. For the two Agents it is back to Chaney.

Scully had theorised that it was a human killer who had watched one too many vampire movies. Mulder now realises that it is a vampire who has watched one too many vampire movies – confusing his reality with that portrayed on the silver screen.

There are two great things about the episode. One is the comedic element that cannot be replicated here with any justice. The two actors, in the alternate scenes, really do well. Little looks, perhaps out of standard (5 seasons in) character, really show us what one thinks of the other. When Ronnie resurrects and goes for the coroner there is a great moment where he feels for his fangs and realises they are removed. I also really liked the moment when Scully is looking at slides of exsanguinated cows and mentions el chupacabra- Mulder gives her a derisory look, as if to indicate her stupidity, and says that el chupacabra has four fangs not two and sucks goats not cows – obviously.

There is also a fantastic use of lore. Ronnie can venture out in daylight, he has no fangs but his eyes glow green. It is little details like throwing in the vampire’s compulsive nature that works well. Mulder knows he is on the right track as the victims’ shoes are untied. Traditionally vampires cannot resist untying knots. He, whilst succumbing to the drugged pizza, manages to scatter sunflower seeds, halting Ronnie’s attack as he has to pick and count the seeds. Mulder mentions many other aspects of traditional lore, such as shroud eating.

A really satisfying episode, with the right mix of lore and comedy, I’d have to say 8 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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